ENGLAND star Gary Ballance admitted he had been “quite surprised” with his golden summer as he outlined his determination to end it by helping Yorkshire win the Championship.
Ballance has been one of the leading lights of the international season, scoring 704 runs in the seven Tests against Sri Lanka and India at an average of 70.40 with three centuries.
The 24-year-old left-hander has been pleasantly surprised with how well he has done – Ballance had only played one Test prior to this summer, against Australia at Sydney in January.
Now he wants to cap his splendid season by helping Yorkshire to their first title since 2001 if England, as expected, give him the go-ahead to play in the last two Championship games against Nottinghamshire and Somerset, along with fellow Yorkshire and England batsman Joe Root.
Speaking ahead of today’s third one-day international against India at Trent Bridge, Ballance told The Yorkshire Post: “I’ve definitely been quite surprised with how well the summer has gone for me personally.
“Luckily, I started the season quite well with Yorkshire, got a few hundreds and took a bit of form and confidence into international cricket.
“To get a hundred in the first Test of the summer, against Sri Lanka at Lord’s, was massive for me and gave me even more confidence, and personally I don’t think it could have gone any better.
“It would be great to cap it off by winning the Championship with Yorkshire and hopefully taking part in the last couple of games.”
Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire’s director of cricket, has said he expects Ballance and Root to be available for those last two matches.
The first of them, against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, starts two days after the last international of the season, a T20 game against India at Edgbaston on September 7.
Should Yorkshire have Ballance, Root and, potentially, Liam Plunkett available for the final two fixtures, with the England pace bowler on course to return to action after an ankle injury, they would have a very strong side for the vital run-in.
Ballance is desperate to be involved in a year in which he has had the unusual experience of observering Yorkshire’s results from afar.
“It’s been a different experience for me and I’ve certainly been watching on as much as possible,” he said.
“The lads have done so well to get to the top of the table and I’d love to be involved for the last two games.
“I love playing for Yorkshire and would love to win something with them, and, hopefully, we can end the season strongly.
“It was disappointing to lose in the Royal London Cup quarter-final against Durham on Thursday, but we can still end this summer on a real high.”
Ballance, who top-scored with 61 in that match as Yorkshire made 206 in reply to Durham’s 237, hopes to return to the ODI side today having been left out of Wednesday’s second one-day international in Cardiff, which England lost by 133 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis method.
He also has one eye on next Friday’s fifth and final ODI at his home ground of Headingley.
“It would be great to play an ODI on my home ground having played a Test there earlier in the summer,” he said.
“It was a special feeling to walk out at Headingley on that occasion and one I’d love to experience again.
“We’ll have to see what happens. I feel like I’m playing well and in good form, but there’s so many good players around and it’s a tough England one-day team to get into.”